Delta seeking damages from councillor over cable

A Dunedin city councillor being pursued by a Dunedin City Council-owned company for $19,000 in damages is seeking legal advice, but says the claim is "laughable".

Cr Lee Vandervis received the $19,241.40 invoice from Delta Utility Services Ltd last month, 18 months after his volunteer damaged an 11,000-volt underground power cable during the 2010 local body election campaign. The cable was owned by another council-owned company, Aurora Energy Ltd, but maintained by Delta.

Delta chief executive Grady Cameron said in a statement the company had been seeking reimbursement from Cr Vandervis since the incident, but had so far not received payment despite letters and phone calls.

The council-owned company had an obligation to ratepayers to recover the costs, or would face a reduced dividend to the council, he insisted. However, Cr Vandervis scoffed when asked yesterday if he planned to pay the bill.

"I think it's laughable. Why should I pay? It's got nothing to do with me, or extremely little to do with me at the very best."

Cr Vandervis and other council candidates were permitted to install temporary election signs at the Quarry Rd location and other council-designated election advertising sites, marked on maps given to candidates.

Cr Vandervis opted for oversized swing sets as part of his campaign, requiring steel pegs to secure them to the ground.

His volunteer was hammering in a steel peg when he pierced the cable, which failed later and cut power to 747 consumers from East Taieri to Taieri Mouth for about 40 minutes.

However, Mr Cameron said yesterday the sign had been installed about 20m south of the Quarry Rd signage site.

Cr Vandervis denied that, but said the site marked on the council map included a steep bank and candidates had "done the sensible thing" and installed their signs a few metres away.

His sign was installed next to others in the same location as signs during previous election campaigns, he insisted.

"Delta are grasping at straws trying to pretend that I've somehow been remiss in not putting the sign in the right place.

"There is a legal argument, but they're drawing a very long bow on that one."

Asked if the company would pursue the bill through the courts, Mr Cameron would only say his "first preference" was to discuss the matter with Cr Vandervis.



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